29 January 2015

Being, rather than pretending

Stories shape cultures; they spark emotions and make sense of the past, present and future.
That is why storytelling is one of the most powerful tools for leaders to make sense of complex transformations. Stories connect the whole organization to the business journey rationally and emotionally.

However, it has become common knowledge that getting your message across effectively depends for 90% on the way you “play your instrument” (your body and your voice).
It makes sense for leaders to look for consistency and best postures in order to maximize their impact on their environment. How do I move? More precisely, how do I place my body in front of others? There is a need for awareness of what I am doing and feeling. Let’s refer to the experience of Gilles Wiernik (actor, singer & facilitator) in order to help leaders stand like “a tall and strong tree”.

The fear of being exposed
Ever felt the fear of being seen through? We are not afraid when our strengths are exposed. But we fight tooth and nail to hide our weaknesses. When people stand facing each other during a business meeting, a presentation or even an informal meeting, some postures can affect the message they are delivering. Nervousness, lack of spontaneity, loss of eye contact and blushing are examples of difficulties they may encounter. Maintaining a correct posture can help.

Leaders do not react as animals
Who was the man who famously survived a bear attack by playing dead? When people are exposed to something they perceive as danger, adrenaline begins to play a role. The choice is twofold: fight or flight. You could also play dead... Fortunately for us humans, other options exist.
With the exception of alcohol, drugs or other substances, the remedy for all the bad effects of fear is breathing! When we were babies, we used to breathe with our stomachs, whereas as adults we tend to focus on our lungs when we are under stress. Controlled breathing helps us maintain a cool approach.

Feeling like a tree
When it comes to posture, we refer to an image. Picture yourself as a tree. The deeper the roots, the taller the tree. A tree has its own verticality and horizontality. Correct your posture when standing upright in order to distribute your weight evenly between both feet. Breathe smarter. You also need to find the right dimensions when you take up your space, but do not make the mistake of invading the space of others around you.

Voice is a key factor to your horizontality. It’s like a laser and, just like acoustic instruments, it needs to be directed. It is not about shouting or screaming. Your ability to open your mouth correctly and the acoustics of the room also play a role. It is important for your voice to carry through the room.

Eye contact is also crucial: no eye contact means no relationship. When you are negotiating, it can sometimes be a strategy to avoid eye contact. But in the end, you are going to have to build trust. Sometimes, performers at large concerts are made to have eyes that appear bigger. The objective is for people in the back rows to be able to see their eyes. Once you make eye contact, the relationship is ready to start.

Stories connect the whole organization to the business
Remember, it is all about breathing and centering.
Open your mouth when delivering a message, and picture yourself as a tall and strong tree:
- Verticality: inner trust, self-confidence
- Horizontality: building trust, relationship

The first trick in storytelling is to use the narrative as a means of communication. You will need characters and action. This is not about telling the story of your company. It is all about using a story in the service of your company. And no matter what the size of their organizations, leaders can deliver their message to a larger audience thanks to the Web.

“The last aspect is about combining individual consistency with a logical story. As a company, make sure all the people tell the same story. For instance, as a leader, you can write your story about change that will serve as a catalyst to rally a management team around the case for change.” (L. De Jaeger – Prosci).
This article only gives you an overview of storytelling, which is one of many methods to help you be a bigger leader. If you can tell a story, you are more likely to convey emotion and rally people to your cause.

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